Today my Grandma, Ada Poland Huntley, would have been 105. She was the wife to Guy Huntley and mother to 9 boys and 1 girl, 4 of them already passed on. All of them are living or have lived interesting and productive lives. She loved each and every one of her kids and was widely known as a good cook who could create something delicious from virtually nothing.
I lived over 1000 miles away from her for most of my life, so I did not get to know her well when I was young. However, when I was 9 or 10 years old, she came to stay with us and left me with one memory so vivid I can still taste it. She taught me how to bake bread.
I remember she got a little cross with me because I wanted to go play while it was rising. She set me straight right away. Instead at her behest, I sat with her at the kitchen table and she taught me how to play solitare. There is something very wise in teaching a kid to entertain herself.
When that bread came out of the oven, it smelled heavenly. And although I had been spoiled by my mom all my life with homemade bread, none ever tasted so good as those first loaves I baked by my own hand. That was some 40 years ago and to this day, I never bake bread without thinking of her. She did so much more than teach me the art of dough making, kneading and baking. She invited me to cook, which has been my creative outlet of choice ever since.
Grandma was like so many of the mentors of my life: She taught me something which was in this case a process, bread making. But more importantly, she recognized that glimmer -- that spark of true passion -- and she blew on and tended and fanned that spark until it burst into flame. That is what the best teachers, coaches and mentors do and if you are not blessed to have such a mentor or coach like that in your life right this minute, drop everything until you find one!
I still, on occasion, bake bread. Five children and calorie cutbacks have curtailed that a bit. But every day -- every single day -- I love creating nourishing and delicious food for myself and my family. It is my favorite part of every day. Thank you, Grandma.